WRs Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown vs. CBs Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara
The much ballyhooed battle of the quarterbacks involved in this game – the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and the Giants’ Eli Manning – will go as far as the mega-talented receivers on both teams will take it. The Steelers have gotten a high level of production without the big plays the Wallace/Brown duo amassed last season. Wallace (12.8 yards per catch) and Brown (12 yards per catch) are making shorter routes work, and it’s helping the Steelers move the ball consistently.
Webster and Amukamara have given up multiple big plays this season, and the Steelers can expect them to play off both Wallace and Brown. They’ll show a three-safety look in both nickel and their base defenses, as Kenny Phillips will return from injury, but the Giants won’t want to leave Stevie Brown off the field. He has three interceptions in the Giants’ last two games.
CBs Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis vs. WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks
The Steelers haven’t seen receivers with the talent of Cruz and Nicks, and arguably haven’t seen a quarterback as dangerous as Manning throwing them the ball. Cruz is dangerous all over the field, and leads the NFL with 7 touchdown catches and is fourth with 53 catches. Manning looks for Nicks deep a little more often than Cruz, but either one of them present a tough challenge for both Taylor and Lewis.
Due to the speed and aggressiveness of the Giants’ offense, the Steelers will want to employ a two-deep look with their deep secondary to give help outside the numbers. Against Washington, the Steelers did a great job of funneling the Redskins’ receivers inside to the linebackers, and played a very physical game overall. They’ll need that same level of intensity against the Giants receivers – all of whom will make plays in this game – if they’re going to keep the Steelers in it.
RT Mike Adams vs. DE Justin Tuck
While Tuck may or may not be serious with his accusations of the Steelers “getting away with murder,” or holding pass rushers, he’s in for a challenge against the run more than the pass. The Steelers are running well off Adams in the two games he’s started in place of injured Marcus Gilbert. The Steelers have rushed for 164 yards on 25 carries when going off Adams, including a nice direct snap play to RB Chris Rainey in Week 8.
Tuck is one of the game’s better defensive ends against the run, and while the Steelers have advantages in the passing game, Tuck should expect Adams as well as a pulling LG Willie Colon coming at him on running downs. RBs Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall won’t play Sunday, leaving Isaac Redman needing to find a way to get outside on those power runs. Tuck will need to get leverage on Adams quickly, and force Redman to make a decision upon receiving the handoff.
NT Casey Hampton vs. C David Baas
Expect the Steelers to attack the interior line of the Giants often, particularly in the A gaps with LBs Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote. Hampton’s ability to move Bass and otherwise keep him occupied from the designed blitz will be key in this effort.
Baas, as well as RG Chris Snee and LG Kevin Boothe, will have to be prepared for a variety of run blitzes aimed to keep the Giants in long passing situations. The Giants aren’t a particularly outstanding running team, but they will need to get something of a ground game going in order to move the Steelers safeties closer – thus giving them some space for Nicks and Cruz outside the numbers.